Given that SimCity Deluxe didn't turn out as well as we all had hoped, it's only reasonable to want Virtual City – which on the surface touches similar bases – to make up for its predecessor's shortcomings.
Which makes it all the more disappointing that the game can't match up to the keystone of the city building genre - not because Virtual City is an abomination, but rather because this isn't the city simulation you expect.A tale of two cities
Instead, it's a time-management game. There's no real street planning involved here - think more along the lines of real estate management sim Build-a-lot.
You're given goals and a time limit within which to complete your outlined objectives. The game is linear and frequently encloses you within the tight confines of its objective-based level design.
However, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Where Virtual City falls down is that it gives you too much to do.
To start, taking charge of a shipping and transport firm is your priority. Buying lorries, buses and dumper trucks to transport goods and recycle the leftovers is your first means of earning cash.
Besides needing money to fund purchases – success depends on a fine balance between spending and saving – every vehicle in your collection has to be housed in a suitably spacious garage and assigned a travel route around the city.
As such, buying a truck to transport goods to the local mall involves clearing a series of hurdles, including everything from the manufacture of the products in question to how customers get to the point of purchase.
Though the tasks vary the further you progress, this city management gameplay is what Virtual City opts for over construction and urban planning.
While unique, it become complex. Even in the tutorial, your role in the city soon becomes confusing. Suddenly your remit extends to everything from putting out fires and curing diseases to repairing collapsed tunnels to neighbouring cities.
It's not that completing all such tasks isn't possible – each action requires nothing more than a tap on the building in question to sort it out. The problem lies in the fact that simply getting your head around what you should be doing at each and every moment when so many options are available is neither easy nor particularly fun.
Generating the cash needed to fund such ventures should be the focus, yet the game diverges too much to really hone its craft. Scores of separate goals never link up to form one cohesive challenge.
Because your attention is constantly being stretched, so the core aims of play become diluted, and Virtual City as a whole loses its focus.
Time-management simulations rely on rhythm, with tight deadlines constantly keeping you on your toes. There's never any sense that anything you're doing is in any way connected.
In an effort to be all things to all people, Virtual City ends up spreading itself thinly and loses its appeal in the process.